The Urbz: Sims In the City
How is the hip version of The Sims handling itself on the portable scene? Let's just say it has a lot of needs...
The Sims series of games is so insanely popular EA knows a new release is a license to print money, and so it goes without saying that The Urbz: Sims in the City for the Nintendo DS was bound to happen, though it arrives at the wrong time. While it's a good game, it's also rather boring, and since it's for the most part a port of the GBA version (which is cheaper, I might add), it's definitely not a must buy.
The Urbz: Sims in the City is basically The Sims but in a more ghetto fabulous location. The concept is to create a character and then attempt to fit in among the locales. You'll work to earn Simoleons (the game's currency) so you can buy all sorts of cool stuff (like a skydiving machine), interact with numerous characters (to build your rep), and visit numerous locales. You can also create pets and play several mini games, some of which make use of the Nintendo DS's touch screen.
In addition to all of that, you'll also need to make sure your Urb's needs are satisfied. At the bottom of the top screen are several important categories and each has a green life bar of sorts. The more green you lose the more troubled your Urb becomes, and you'll need to tend to that particular category. Hunger, Hygiene, Energy, Social Comfort, Bladder, Fun, and Room (make sure your place is clean) all come into play, so there's a lot of micromanagement involved. This will either delight you if you're a sim veteran or, if you're like me, become increasingly annoying the more you play.
I wouldn't have minded it if it was realistic, but every time that I'd start to do something my character would have an issue. This happens not necessarily because there are too many motives to cover but because those green bars deplete at super sonic speeds. I mean, come on! I know we all need to go to the bathroom, but I was sending my Urb to the crapper every five minutes! I'm certainly aware that this is basically what The Sims is based upon, but here it just seems a tad excessive. Over time you will find ways to manage these motives a lot easier, so it won't be that huge an issue as when you first start, but you'll still need to do a lot of monitoring.
Along the way you're going to meet lots of characters and engage in conversation, but the exchange is quite predictable. You'll be presented with several options and all you do is choose which one you think will please him or her the most, so depending on whom you're talking to, you basically tailor the discussion to their interests. It's pretty boring, and at times just doesn't make much sense. Having the option to just bring up ninjas in conversation whenever you want isn't too amusing.
Visually, The Urbz: Sims in the City is horrific. Its graphics are strictly GBA quality, but of course that makes sense because it's based off the GBA version of the same game. The isometric perspective works well and the environments are certainly detailed, but EA's launch title doesn't showcase the power of the DS at all. It certainly doesn't have to because great graphics don't make a great game, but at the same time, there's no reason why fans of the GBA version should be experiencing deja vu after dropping bigger bucks on Nintendo's latest.
And if someone asks you to turn down the volume, don't be disappointed. The music isn't catchy, nor is it even worth listening to. It certainly serves its purpose to create atmosphere, but it's definitely not one of the game's highlights.
The ability to navigate through numerous menus using the touch screen is definitely useful, but it's not exactly thrilling. There are other things you'll do with it (such as extracting a mosquito from a piece of amber), but as far as launch games go, The Urbz: Sims in the City is a huge disappointment. In a time when Nintendo needs games that show off what its hardware can do, EA's title is pathetically below average in this respect.
Throughout this review I've been pretty hard on The Urbz: Sims in the City, but don't take what I'm saying the wrong way. The DS game is very much like its GBA counterpart, and its new content (Splicer Island, menu navigation with the touch screen, creating pets) definitely makes it the best version to get. It's actually a pretty enjoyable game if you have the patience, but mine wore thin after an hour. The gameplay is tedious and none of the mini games are fun, while simple tasks are made more difficult because your Urb is a huge pain.
Also, I was put off at how the game puts you into a category from the outset based upon responses given to questions. There are several groups, including Nerdies, Streeties, Richies, and Artsies, which is fine, but I would've been happier carving my own path as I play. Because I like money (!), I'm labeled as a Richie.
The Urbz: Sims in the City is a deep life simulation that's full of so many things to do you'll likely get lost for hours. However, as a DS launch title it's pretty lackluster, and it doesn't make good use of the system's abilities. That's not necessarily a strike against the game, but the fact that it's basically the GBA version with some lame touch screen stuff keeps it from being a must buy.
What's Hot: The DS version offers a small improvement from the GBA.
What's Not: Is the next-gen really about small improvements over the GBA?